What has been your journey at Telia (now Arelion) over the last 27 years?
I actually started in a management trainee program, right out of university. Back in those days, the Internet wasn’t really that big, but Telia really made a conscious effort of becoming a player within the industry domestically. I think that was a good learning ground, because the Internet was so new to everyone. At that time in Sweden, we had a 2MB connection to Europe and 2 x 2MB to the US—that was the scope of the Internet network in Sweden for Telia.
I started working as a peering manager and moved to the US for three years to build up both our footprint in the US network and relationships with other Internet companies, many of which we still have today. When I moved back to Sweden, I started working more on the technology side—network planning, IT domain, and DWN domain—for what was then a separate international carrier operation. I then moved into working as Development Head Engineer for the Nordic and Baltic domains for about three years and spent another three years in product management before moving back to the international carrier side as Head of Business for Data and Infrastructure. I’ve been CEO since 2016.
I guess you could say I have been involved in pretty much every part of the organization, with the exception of direct sales, though I did have a short stint for four months with CAIS Internet as part of the management program. It was a small company, so when you sold something, you packed the router under your arm and went out and installed it. It was a fantastic learning experience from the ground up, which is so important in this industry.
How have you seen Telia evolve over time, and what growth have you driven within the organization when it comes to products, services, and external outlook for customers? What has that change been like for the company?
I think to understand the full scope of Telia’s evolution, you have to go back a bit. A lot of the international operations in the late 90s/early 00s started more or less through putting up many telecommunications operators in many different countries. Coming into the dotcom boom, there was a need to centralize, take out inefficiencies, and make sure you had one cohesive way of running and operating the organization. So that was a major change for Telia at the time—to become one big company rather than a lot of small companies spread out across many different places. I think that mindset is our foundation in the sense that we’re a really strong company with a clear, functional, centralized response. I often describe us as “functionally central, but geographically dispersed”—we’re everywhere and trying to interact with our partners and customers in many different locations, but at the same time, we’re one cohesive organization.